Keeping your foot on the gas as you inch round the side of a mountain.
Crossing off each day as it comes without ripping up the calendar.
Seeing the chink of sunlight between two angry rain clouds.
Not slowing, or walking, or giving up until you reach that mile.
Writing a thousand blog posts before someone reads one.
Watching the sun set before you stop working.
Watching the sun rise before you go to bed.
Making a diary entry on a duvet day.
Repeating a monologue until you embody the character.
Finishing this poem.
That’s all well and good – but to be persistent requires a great deal of motivation. How can you convince yourself to keep going against all the odds? Here is how I do it.
- Imagine the end goal: each task, each chore, each exam you do has a purpose. Whatever you are doing, there is a reason for it. By trying to picture where you will be once you have achieved your goal, it is much easier to motivate yourself to get there.
- Give yourself treats: separate your one big task into several mini milestones and place a reward at the end of each one. Obviously, it makes sense to leave the largest reward to the end, but don’t forget to congratulate yourself along the way.
- Stay healthy: yes, I know. Healthy mind, healthy body = yawn. But there is a lot to be said for how energised a short burst of Zumba or jogging will make you feel. Doing some exercise is an accomplishment in itself, leaving you feeling more positive about your other goals.
- GET ON WITH IT: Lying in bed thinking about the impending task at hand will not help you to conquer it. Sometimes, you have to just bite the bullet and begin, however painful. An hour in to the task, you’ll wonder why on earth you were dreading it in the first place.
- Know when to stop: once you get into a rhythm of work, it can be hard to take a break. You might think that interrupting your flow will be detrimental to the end result, but you need time to relax, reflect and rewind. If you don’t, you’ll wear yourself out and have no energy left for the next time around. A break of about 10 minutes every hour should do it.
So go on, get motivated!
Getting the blues is almost inevitable after the decorations have come down and the lights have been turned off. January is probably the worst month of the year in that respect: Christmas is over, there is no excuse to eat your entire body weight in chocolate, it’s back to work and back to school and a bunch of extremely annoying people are telling you to start a health-kick.
To top that all off, I had to return to a cold, rainy, grey and sunless Northern France for the worst month of the year.
So, to make this month slightly more bearable for you (and for me!), I have a few important tips:
- Don’t force yourself to stick to a punishing diet: a raw, gluten-free, vegan, carb-free salad diet might help you shed some pounds quickly in the height of summer, but it is a bad idea to do this in the middle of winter. For one thing, you might need that extra padding for warmth (student housing, I’m looking at you). For another, cooking warm, hearty meals can make any rainy January day feel so much better. The diet can wait until the sun appears.
- Stock up on reading materials: classic novels, cheap beach-reads, trashy magazines – who cares? Gather all your old favourites and one or two new reads and indulge yourself – preferably in front of a fire, with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows. Perfect.
- Get a colouring book! I know, not the most original idea. But they are best-sellers for a reason. I have found that colouring in Johanna Basford’s beautiful Secret Garden is both relaxing and satisfying. You don’t have to think about what you’re doing and generally will produce something pretty, whichever colours you choose.
- Stick the radio on: listening to the radio is such a great way to feel better, whether it’s music or chatting, because the presenters put in all the effort that you seem to lack this month. Also, you can listen to the radio wherever you are in the world, so it’s also a good way to make you feel connected with those at home.
- Get on the phone: or Skype, FaceTime or whatever you use! I know some people say that when you’re abroad or away from home at university you should avoid relying too much on people at home, but I think that’s rubbish. Sometimes the one thing that can make you feel better is a call to your loved ones, so just do it. Plus, they will want to hear from you too.
There is an etiquette to dining out. It is undeniable. Yes, it may vary from culture to culture, but everywhere there are certain unwritten rules for restaurants. I’m here to write a few of them down.
- Gauge the atmosphere before you top up your glass. This is so important. Nothing ruins a quiet evening out with friends like the guy who’s had a few too many spilling his drink down your shirt. The host has booked this venue because they want to create a certain kind of atmosphere. So stick to it.
- Check the menu online beforehand. This is key to all those fussy eaters and veggies (like me) out there. If you make sure there is something you would like to eat on the menu, you will avoid all that uncomfortable squirming in front of a menu that says ‘I’m your worst nightmare!’ If you can’t find anything online, why not call up the restaurant to see if they can accommodate your needs.
- Check with the host before inviting your other half. This is a tricky rule to get right. If you suggest bringing your partner to someone else’s event, always be fully prepared to be turned down. There may not be enough space for them, or, if no other partners are going, they will feel awkward. As will everyone else who wanted to talk to you about them.
- Address the staff yourself! This is one that really gets my goat. No matter who you are, you can order your own food. Don’t let your man speak for you because it’s apparently ‘chivalrous’. It’s not. You are a grownup too.
- Don’t get defensive about your dosh. If you and your mates have decided to go Dutch, split the bill and get over it. Of course, if you have ordered the steak and they all ate salad, you’ll need to cough up, but don’t get in a flurry about a couple of pence. It’s so not worth the argument.
When times are tough, a good book always makes me feel better. So for anyone wishing to take a break from their worries and dive into a new novel, here is a list of my Top 20 Books So Far.
- Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
- Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
- The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
- Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence
- Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
- I know why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- The Awakening, Kate Chopin
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
- Atonement, Ian McEwan
- Persuasion, Jane Austen
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
- Therese Raquin, Emile Zola
- Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
- Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
- A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket
- The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin
- The Jiggy McCue series, Michael Lawrence
Which books would make your Top 20? I’d love to hear your suggestions below.